Embracing God’s Gifts Big and Small
It was supposed to be a quick errand, in and out of the store in five minutes or less. But Karly, my 18-month-old daughter, didn’t care about the time. As I prodded her along the sidewalk, she stopped every two or three steps to outline the creases between the bricks, stomp on the rusted metal grates, and point out a gaggle of geese flying overhead. Every flower and tree trunk distracted her. Every person we passed received a giant smile, a wave, and a cheery “hey-yo” (hello).
Now I admit, I’m a classic Type A, planning and cramming my hours with “important” tasks. I don’t have time to pluck the leaves off bushes or relax in a mound of mulch while squashing the scratchy pine straw in my hands. Wasted minutes are not acceptable. A successful day is one filled with accomplishment, and this day was no exception. I tugged on Karly’s arm to move closer to the store’s front door, but every time we’d take a step, she’d discover something new. I tried to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of her latest selection, but I really didn’t have the time to care.
Checking my watch, I scooped Karly up and rushed toward the store. She was content on my hip for a moment until something caught her eye. I felt a tap, tap, tap on my shoulder.
“Down, peas (please),” she begged.
I glanced around us and saw the parking lot with its clusters of other shoppers busy rushing back and forth to their cars. We were supposed to be on our way home by now. There was dinner to make and laundry to wash and floors to vacuum and urgent calls to return.
“We’ve got to go, honey,” I explained as Karly squirmed, her tapping more frantic against my arm. I was obviously neglecting something critical, but I had no idea what. I glanced at my watch again. Fifteen minutes behind schedule.
“Peas, Mama!” The urgency in her voice made me stop and look into her big, brown eyes. She was about to cry. “Peas!”
I relented and set her down at my side.
Like a bird, she flew out of my arms so fast that it surprised me, and for a second, I thought she’d just figured out a way to escape her mom. I didn’t worry for long, though, because she knew exactly where she was going. She bolted toward the corner, and in one swoop, she wrapped her arms around a black street lamp and squeezed it with a smile. That was all she wanted. Mission accomplished. Apparently, the lamp just needed a hug. Satisfied, she let go of the pole and jumped back into my arms.
It’s not the first time I’ve admired Karly’s zest for life. She seems to embrace not just the street lamps, but every moment with her enthusiastic hugs. She rarely asks me to slow down, but she compels me to do it, inspiring me to stop and reflect instead of slam through life by accomplishing yet another chore. No matter how hard I work, my “to do” list never goes away. In fact, it seems to expand and grow every time I check something off. My young daughter has taught me a few important things about life.
Trimming my busy schedule is a welcome yet almost traumatic thing for me to do since I thrive on its adrenaline rush. While it’s important to go to the grocery store and the dentist and the dry cleaners and the library, these tasks have become the foundation for my life instead of a sidebar. I wonder if that’s what God intended for me—an endless cycle of rushing and activity. No time to stop and appreciate the beauty in God’s world. Karly’s vocabulary is simple and slurred, but with her enthusiasm for life’s smallest details, she’s taught me to slow down even in the midst of a rush. I’m learning to take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery before I move on. And I’m learning to pare down my “to do” list into what’s critical instead of elevating every task to a red alert.
Embrace Every Moment
On the simplest days stuck at home, Karly delves into everything new with fervor. The most ordinary things inspire creativity whether it’s a wooden spoon, a kitchen pot, the morning newspaper, or a brand-new box. She crumples the paper, drums the pot, and climbs her box. There seems to be nothing she can’t use to build and create, and she doesn’t need waterslides or an amusement park to orchestrate her fun. Getting to the end of a line actually upsets her because the wait is so much fun. On a recent trip to Disney World, she was much more interested in entertaining the people in line than experiencing the rides. She made friends; patting people’s backs, playing with their hair, making even the grumpiest smile. The long waits that annoyed me didn’t deter her. She embraced these extra moments to enjoy new people, stifling the mundane with a grin.
Squeeze the Street Lamps
While I’ve yet to squeeze a street lamp, it seemed perfectly normal for Karly. In our world, it’s odd for adults to do something extraordinary that has no obvious purpose or reason. I don’t understand why Karly needed to hug the lamp, but her strange action inspired me.
Even as Karly’s years pass from toddler to teen to adult, I pray she won’t lose her zest for everything life has to offer. I want her to embrace the people who need love and appreciate the beauty around her. I want her to make every moment count—not by piling on more chores and tasks, but by embracing the gifts God’s given her, big and small.
I still have my calendar and a list of things I want and need to do. Yet even on the busiest days, Karly and I now stop and appreciate God’s creation. I’ve learned a great life lesson from my little girl. No matter how frantic my schedule, it’s essential to take a deep breath and relish in all of God’s creation—the people, the pine straw, all the flowers, and even the street lamps that need a hug.